Firenze - 17 Marzo 2008, ore 02:08
Italy, Spain, Greece, and Morocco have united in an initiative to get the “Mediterranean Diet” added to UNESCO’s list of immaterial patrimonies. This was the proposal made recently in Barcelona by Italy’s Minister of Agriculture, Paolo De Castro.
“The Mediterranean diet is a patrimony that must be protected and diffused, a patrimony that science has revealed to have particular health benefits and which, throughout history, has accompanied and reaffirmed the common cultural identity of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean”. These were the words of Minister De Castro upon making the proposal public during “Alimentaria 2008”, the international conference on the Mediterranean diet that was held in Barcelona. It was presented together with Spain’s Minister of Agriculture and Fishing, Elena Espinosa.
“The main agricultural productions” – continued De Castro – “that characterize the Mediterranean diet represent about 40% of the total value for European agricultural production, with earnings of over 118 billion euros.
These numbers are even higher in the EU countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. In particular, for Italy, over half of agricultural production is made up of cereals, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and fish products, not to mention wine, and earnings surpass 9 billion euros. The defense of Mediterranean production is, therefore, a strategic element and a priority for agricultural politics in Italy and these other countries”.
The joint candidacy for the Mediterranean diet will be written by four countries – Italy, Spain, Greece, and Morocco – by creating work groups with the task of developing the motivations – cultural, historical, productive, environmental, and alimentary – that would justify the recognition by the UN.
But this candidacy will not be limited to these countries: it will include others in its final dossier that will be presented by the end of August 2008 during a conference in Rome with other countries that are working on the same project. It will then be passed on for scrutiny by UNESCO, who will make their final decision by the end of 2009.
The proposal to include the Mediterranean diet on the UNESCO list is part of the project for development that Italy’s Minister De Castro and Spain’s Minister Espinosa Mangana had jointly declared during a conference in Ibiza in 2007. The project put an emphasis on improving quality and competitiveness of these country’s products and was supported by the European Council of Agriculture and Fishing.
Coldiretti defends the Mediterranean diet proposal, arguing that the UNESCO list should not be left under the tutelage of France
After the Spanish initiative that was made official by the European Commission and the announcement made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, it is important that Italy also aligns itself enough to be able to ask for the recognition of its cultural patrimony that makes up part of the Mediterranean diet on the official UNESCO list. This was the response of the Italian agricultural union, Coldiretti, regarding the joint candidacy by Italy, Spain, Greece, and Morocco for the presentation of the dossier that requests the Mediterranean diet become part of UNESCO’s list of cultural patrimony.
Coldiretti also stated that recuperating the delays the have accumulated has an extraordinary value for Italy, which is a flagship of the countries that claim this type of cuisine, where the culture of food is the strongest among the main cuisines of the Mediterranean. Italy has reached top earnings for the main base productions like that for fruit, vegetables, and pasta, and has earned a place of honor in the European Union for its wine and olive oil production, surpassed only by France and Spain, respectively.
Italy, among other things, has taken first place in all of Europe for quality denomination of origin food products (DOP/IGP) with its 166 food products that are recognized by the European Union, decidedly ahead of France, which claims only 156 products that are recognized, and regardless of the declarations made by President Sarkozy, according to whom French cuisine, “is the best in the world” and merits UNESCO recognition as a cultural patrimony.
Coldiretti also pointed out that the bread, pasta, fruits, vegetables, olive oils, and wines that are consumed in the Italian diet have allowed Italians to conquer the European record for longevity, with an average lifespan of 77.2 years for men and 82.8 years for women.
And in a Europe that is becoming decidedly more overweight, Italians remain the thinnest and in the best physical condition thanks precisely to its food culture. According to the latest EU survey on the average weight/height index of all of its citizens, Italians measured in at an average height of 1.681 meters (only a couple of centimeters below the average EU height), and with an average weight of 68.7 kilos (which is largely inferior to the EU average of 72.2 kilos).
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